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On “the Bellydance Police”

posted in: ethics | 3
Bellydance Police
Michelle Joyce – cheeky!

On Shira’s tribe over on tribe.net (no, tribe isn’t dead!), she referenced an article on Gilded Serpent in which another dancer wrote with a fair amount of disdain about those who rally behind the idea of retaining historical and cultural elements of bellydance (what is often termed “The Bellydance Police”). You can see the discussion, and link to the article, HERE. Shira follows it up with a great analogy, which I thought would be nice to share over here. So without further ado, I give you Shira’s take:

“Let’s say I write a 17-line poem with each line containing somewhere between 8 and 34 syllables and call it haiku. Now, the “poetry police” killjoys would tell you that such a poem does not conform to the properties of haiku (3 lines in length, with 5 syllables in line 1, 7 syllables in line 2, 5 syllables in line 3) and therefore is not haiku. Now, this poem may well convey my vision, my passion, my joy, and a completeness in my quest for beauty. These things would certainly qualify it as “poetry”, but they don’t qualify it as haiku.

But if I enter that poem in a haiku writing contest, should I expect to win? Should I expect journals that specialize in haiku to publish it, simply because I have chosen to declare that it is haiku, even though it does not contain the properties that people well-versed in the form would recognize as haiku?

If I start teaching classes in how to write haiku, should it be okay that I encourage my students to write any poem of any structure they please, all in the name of their vision, their passion, their joy, and a completeness in their quest for beauty while still calling the end result haiku?

I would argue that no, it may all still be POETRY, and it all may all be worthy of being read, but there is a certain basic set of properties that must be met before you identify it as a specific genre of poetry. It still deserves to be written, and shared if the poet wishes to share it, but ultimately there should be truth in labeling.”

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Shay Moore is the director and primary instructor at Deep Roots Dance in Seattle, WA. She loves writing, movies, costuming, knitting, cooking, and bellydance to the moon and back again; and loves her amazing husband and doggies even more than that.

3 Responses

  1. Avatar
    brett brady
    | Reply

    sorry, but the “killjoys” are right! …best to learn at least a few little legitimate things about anything before you try to teach something authentically essential about it..yes?

    anyway good luck to you and your students –

    -brett brady

  2. Avatar
    | Reply

    I think the language is what bothers me. Why must people who want to preserve a style be called dinosaurs or stagnant or other negative terms? They are the keepers of the flame, the repository of tradition and history.

    Everyone does not have to hold to tradition and not everyone will, but as long as people love the history of something, be it dance or another art form or a craft or whatever, it is still alive. Each practitioner brings their own personal history, their style, their personality and builds it on top of a foundation of history.

    Anyway, I think what Zorba has a problem with is not the Bellydance Police or style purists or whatever. I think he has a problem with uninspired, catty, rigid, superior acting dancers/teachers. I wish he has just addressed that and not wrapped it up in a purist/non purist discussion.

  3. Avatar
    Shay Moore
    | Reply

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, guys!

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